In retrospect, David Pastrnak hitting the post with an empty net in front of him in the first period foreshadowed how Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Second Round was going to go for the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
It was a night of missed opportunities for the Bruins, who let a chance to push the New York Islanders to the brink of elimination slip through their fingers in a 4-1 loss at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
“That’s where you know that it might be a tough night for us tonight in terms of getting things to go our way when your best player hits the post on an open net and it just kind of sits there,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
So the Bruins will head back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVAS) with the best-of-7 series tied.
“The playoffs are about making adjustments, so we’ll do some adjustments,” Bruins center David Krejci said. “I’m sure they will as well, but we’re going to have to play our best game of the season.”
The Bruins didn’t do that Saturday. Pastrnak hitting the right post with 3:02 left in the first period after Patrice Bergeron set him up in the left circle with goalie Semyon Varlamov out of position and the net empty was an example of that. Pastrnak, who had a hat trick in a 5-2 win in Game 1, doesn’t often miss an empty net.
Maybe that could be attributed to bad luck, but the Bruins could only blame themselves for some of their other missed chances. The biggest might have been after Krejci scored a power-play goal off a scramble for a 1-0 lead at 3:57 of the second period.
New York’s challenge for goaltender interference failed after a video review, resulting in another power play for Boston, which not only didn’t score on the man-advantage, it didn’t attempt a shot.
“Obviously, we had a good opportunity to either score a goal or create something for the next line,” Krejci said. “We didn’t.”
Instead, New York gained momentum from the penalty kill and tied the score 41 seconds after it expired, with Kyle Palmieri finishing a feed from Mathew Barzal at 6:38.
“The lack of urgency to get a puck to the net, I think it was a bit of a formula tonight in general,” Cassidy said. “We weren’t willing to shoot enough, I thought, at least to sort of get some opportunities to get to their goaltender, and we paid the price for it. That’s why we didn’t score 5-on-5. We just turned down way too many shots.”
Despite that, the Bruins were tied 1-1 heading into the third period and in position to take command of the series. But the Islanders took a 2-1 lead, with Barzal swatting in a bouncing puck from the left circle at 13:03 and shut things down after that.
Boston did not have a shot on goal in the final 6:18 and finished with 29, while New York got empty-net goals from Casey Cizikas at 18:57 and Jean-Gabriel Pageau at 19:57 to pad the lead.
“We just didn’t have our best game executing,” Cassidy said. “Through the neutral zone, they didn’t change much that they’ve done, and tonight, for whatever reason, we had a really tough time getting our game and moving our feet through there. There were some things that we just couldn’t do that we’ve done in the first three games to create offense. And, obviously, you credit the Islanders, but for us, when you do it for three straight games and then tonight [don’t], we’ll have to look at it why.”
The Bruins hope to find the answers by Monday.
“We’re going home with a chance to regain the lead again, so I think we have to be better,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “Hopefully, we will be.”